By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Tarrant County decided to publish the list of DWI arrestees over New Year’s weekend. You can read about their decision here.
According to Richard Alpert, Tarrant County prosecutorial guru for intoxication offenses, the measure is a creative way to make the streets safer. Alpert reasons, “If the financial cost of being charged with a DWI-related crime and the risk of injury or death is not enough, perhaps the effect of having it known by friends and neighbors will be.”
Mr. Alpert further said he’s motivated to create new efforts to reduce drunk driving because of cases he’s worked on where people have been killed: “The worst photographs that I’ve ever had to look at as a prosecutor are vehicular crashes.”
Point well taken. Mr. Alpert is highly regarded around the State and he is nothing if not sincere about his beliefs.
Here’s why Mr. Alpert’s decision is disappointing and reveals a common thinking error amongst law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. Not everyone is guilty. In fact, based on past statistics it is inconceivable that all of the arrested people this weekend will be convicted.
Tarrant County’s actions of publishing the names probably means an acquitted person’s name will be on the internet FOREVER as a drunk driver regardless of what a jury says — and even regardless of if and when a District Judge Orders the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to take certain names off the list. Putting something on the internet is writing it in permanent ink.
I wouldn’t expect the public to be too lose sleep over a few unlucky schmos who get tossed on this list because they ran into an angry cop having a bad night… or for some poor mope with a lisp that couldn’t talk an officer out of arresting him for having slurred speech… and I can’t imagine the masterminds of the list would be too bothered either. After all… even if they beat the rap, they were probably guilty of SOMEthing, right?
Prosecutors have a duty to seek justice. That duty is worthless where prosecutors assume everyone is guilty… and how do we know they’re making this assumption? They are intentionally convicting them in the public and they’re not even bothering to read the police reports first.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation, you should contact an attorney directly. Contacting the attorney through this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. Communications through this blog are not confidential.